NeoCon East saw a 7 percent increase in exhibitors this year. Here, Toli launches its MT slip-resistant floor during the show.

The sixth annual NeoCon East show, held recently in Baltimore, was a success as far as show organizers are concerned. While attendance was flat (approximately 8,000 show goers, which is comparable to last year numbers), the number of exhibitors rose by 7 percent to 302. Additionally, the show included 48 seminars and association forums -- more educational courses "than ever before," organizers noted.

Mark Falanga, sr. vp of Merchandise Mart Properties which oversees NeoCon East, pointed to the commercial industry's ability to weather tough times as a main reason for the show's success. One constant source of revenue in good times and bad is the federal government, he said, and more manufacturers are taking advantage of these types of projects. "More companies today are better positioned to participate in the federal government segment than ever before," he said, adding that while federal government projects are traditionally slower, more exacting and require a whole different selling strategy to land, they often result in "a steady stream of business."

"When the Internet [bubble] imploded around 2000 or 2001, a lot of the commercial furnishings manufacturers were forced to move away from the tech companies and look at federal government projects," Falanga said. "They found that even during a difficult [economic] time, the federal government remained a very steady buyer with world-class facilities comparable to what the most cutting-edge corporations were putting into their environments."

Another important aspect of the commercial market's relative health is the widescale adoption of "green" building practices and processes, Falanga noted. "Green is significant," he toldNFT. "There’s been no single movement that has drawn the industry together more than 'green' has. Every manufacturer now has a green offering or has incorporated an environmentally responsible component into what they're doing."

He also sees 'green' continuing to grow, even as the economy slows down. "Green won’t be affected by the economy," he said. "If it is it will be affected positively, because more people will be forced to get into 'green' because of escalating energy costs."

'Green' buildings have another advantage as well, Falanga added. "Having a 'green' space helps businesses recruit and retain great people. If you had a choice of working in a healthy environment or one that wasn't as healthy, you'd choose the healthy environment every time."